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July 22, 2016

Exploring Virtual Reality in Medicine & Surgery [RESEARCH]

Most physicians and surgeons are still in the early stages in adopting augmented reality and virtual reality in medicine and surgery. Yet with the growing popularity of AR and VR, healthcare is expected be a key driver with a predicted market size of $5.1 billion by 2025.

The disparity between current use and projected growth leaves some asking the question:

How will AR and VR get used in healthcare and by whom?

We partnered with the Society for American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) to get some answers at the their annual convention focused on quality, innovation and mastery.



We brought two AR/VR tools to the event, asked attendees to try out AR VR tools and share their feedback.

The tools for use were zSpace and HTC Vive. These tools represent cutting edge technology. And by using multiple technologies physicians were able to explore a wide range of use cases. Each device had multiple experiences loaded on it with which subjects could interact.


Virtual Reality in Medicine and Surgery

The experiences on the zSpace were developed by the Optera Group and included an abdominal aortic aneurysm stent placement procedure simulation and pelvic anatomy app to aid with hernia repair.

The HTC Vive was loaded with three non-medical applications, given it was too new at the time to have allowed for custom development.

Surgeons Test AR/VR Technologies

The reaction from the surgeons was overwhelming.

It became clear quickly that we were going to need to limit the amount of time each subject had with the devices to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate. Each physician was allowed no more than 10 minutes with each device and then completed a questionnaire.



What Do Surgeons Think About Using AR/VR in Medicine and Surgery?

While not a scientific study, the first-hand insights captured AR/VR usage by physicians was helpful.

• 78% of physicians and surgeons said that they would use AR/VR professionally. Only 6% said they would not.

• 84% of respondents would recommend these two tools to other physicians/surgeons. Only 6% said that they would not.

• 95% of the physicians/surgeons said that they would recommend these tools in teaching and training situations.

Usefulness of AR/VR in Medical Training

When asked specific questions about what the physicians believed AR VR’s usefulness would be, the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

• 69% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that VR tools were as good as seeing prosection or a procedure.

• 93% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the three dimensional approach of VR would make identifying spatial relationships in anatomy easy. In fact, 70% strongly agreed.

• 89% agreed or strongly agreed with 73% strongly agreeing that it was easy to learn anatomy or procedure using VR.

• 89% agreed or strongly agreed that points that normally confused them were easily understood using these tools.

AR/VR Ease of Use

Next, the doctors were asked their opinions on the general ease of use of the AR and VR systems.

• 87% agreed or strongly agreed that the approaches were understandable and familiar.

• 55% of the respondents indicated that they had never seen AR or VR before

Only 20% said they used AR/VR “quite often” or “always.”

Surgeons Enthusiasm for AR/VR

The survey results suggest that physicians and surgeons are enthusiastic about what AR and VR can offer.

Surgeons indicated they would use the AR VR  tools themselves. And collectively, the physician responses confirm the power of AR and VR in clinical education, teaching and training in healthcare.


The Power of AR and VR in Clinical Education


Image Credit: SAGES














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